From the mouth of a Hazara

Published: January 14, 2013
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In this bone-chilling cold and rain, with the coffins of our loved ones lined before us, we are demanding the right to life. PHOTO: AFP

On January 10, 2013 more than 100 people, a majority of them Hazara Shias, were killed in bomb blasts in Quetta. The killing prompted a four-day long sit-in by the families of the victims. 

I just wish that I could have sat with the mourning families at Alamdar Road to protest against the ongoing killing of Shia Hazaras.

I talked to a few people in Quetta, and a classmate of mine narrated to me the stories of mourning and scenes at Alamdar Road through emails.

My classmate’s young married cousin perished in the bomb blast at Bacha Khan Road. Here I will try to accurately narrate the story of grief I was told of that young man’s father, who sat with his son’s dead body…

On the road

Temperatures have fallen below freezing point.

Gusts of biting wind are blowing.

Rain has started falling down in sleets.

Very few of us know that it’s raining because most of us are crying. We can’t distinguish the tears falling from the sky from our own tears.

Men are tightly wrapped in old chaddars, the faces of our women are covered by their long winter scarves, and our children are bundled up in sweaters and caps. Some are being fed by their mothers and others are drinking milk from their bottles, and all of us – old and young – are holding a vigil alongside the dead bodies of our loved ones.

Those who were once alive.

Those who throbbed with life and who could jump with laughter and run with joy.

Now the only sounds that can be heard around us are wails and lamentations. Some cry out bitterly while others weep silently. These sounds of grief are intermittently broken by the cries of babies who are being soothed by their grieving mothers.

My heart shatters into a million pieces when I touch the cold skin of my dead son, and my tears steam down my face, but he cannot respond to my touch, or taste my tears that fall intermingled with the rain.

As I realise my tears will not rouse my son from his eternal slumber, I shove my head into my knees, and clench them tightly. Then, a small, warm human hand covers my shivering body, wracked by sobs. A human figure, pulsating, vibrating with life, throws himself on my enervated frame and kisses me innumerable times.

I hold his warm hand and place it on my heart to slow down its sorrowful beats. This is the hand and touch of my rosy-cheeked grandson. My seven-year-old grandson, a student of class one, a very bright and curious child.

His father died in a bomb blast on Bacha Khan chowk. His father was a bank official and loved his family dearly. Now, his son brings us qahwa and roasted nuts to help us survive the cold. He is a son who would make any parent proud.

After his father’s death, I cannot shield my grandson from profound grief, or hide these chilling facts from him:

That his father will never kiss him again.

That he will never bring toys for him, and that he will never take him to the park.

This is no time for sweet lies and deceptive illusions because our young have to step quickly into adulthood, while our old have try to grow young again to face the dreadful reality of life – a life without our loved ones.

So, all of us converged on Alamdar Road.

We refused to bury our dead, a sacred ritual that has to be carried out immediately, and we refused to begin after-funeral rites to pray for souls of our dear departed, because I and others like me, mourning the death of loved ones, want that our other children and grandchildren are not killed by bombers filled with infinite hatred for humanity.

In this bone-chilling cold and rain, with the coffins of our loved ones lined before us, we are demanding the right to life – a right without which other rights are meaningless.

We do not want water, we do not want food and we do not want shelter; we want freedom from fear and we want freedom to profess our faith.

All of us, young and old, gathered on Alamdar road to ask a few questions in our benumbing grief.

In this winter of sorrow, we ask, beating our chests:

Can anyone give us back our slain sons and daughters whom we nurtured with great care and love?

In this winter of sorrow, we ask, wailing before our unburied:

Can you find a messiah on this wasteland, ravaged by drumbeats of war, to raise our beloved dead?

In this winter of sorrow, we ask, wiping our tears:

Our faith is as much a sacred faith as is yours and theirs  – why kill us then?

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly listed the year 2013 as 2012. This has been changed.

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Sameera Rashid

Sameera Rashid

A research analyst, blogger and a graduate of King's College, London, in public policy.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.